The Hmong is one of the most populous ethnic minorities residing in the North-West of Vietnam. Compared to other ethnic minorities, throughout the years, the Hmong has been better at maintaining their traditional customs and manners, which include the process of making their own clothes.
Up until today, customarily, both male and female Hmong costumes are crafted by Hmong women. From the age of 7, the girls have already been taught to embroider different traditional ethnic patterns by their mothers and grandmothers. Hmong people’s clothes are primarily made of hemp and cotton, as these plants are the most familiar to them. In order to complete a Hmong costume, the Hmong normally has to go through an extensive process of hand-weaving, straightening the cloth, drawing using wax, dyeing and then sewing different parts into the final costume. Other than the patterns created with wax relief method, to make their costumes more appealing, the Hmong sews beads to add colors to their clothes.
It is easily recognized that patterns play a very important part in adding up to the beauty of Hmong costumes. However, all of the patterns they use are very simple and modest. The patterns are mostly created based on their folk-tales, poems or simply just the familiar plants and domestic animals surrounding them, such as pumkin flowers, peach blossoms, spider net, butterfly wings, snails, snakes, goat horns and so on. The Hmong costumes usually have beautiful patterns from the turbans to the leg-guards. The embroidery techniques of the Hmong people are very complex and precise, showing the Hmong women’s delicacy and deftness. These patterns all have bright and vivid colors, which bring the feeling of warmness and happiness to the people who wear it, espicially in the cold weather and in the middle of the forestry and mountainous areas. The colors of the Hmong clothes also make them stand out from the crowd when they are working in the fields or attending festivals.
The Hmong people also believe that beautiful patterns can help them connect with the gods, bring about good luck and dispel bad omens. Each and every pattern has its own meaning. For instance, the snail pattern represents affection and prosperity, however, the pattern of two snails symbolize the agreement and harmony between two family lines. The tiger and dragon are considered a symbol of power, while the centipede stands for respect. Along with those, there are also many patterns to present the universe, the sun, the weather, the crop and so on.
The increasing pace of modernization has made many ethnic minorities’ traditions and habits fall into oblivion. Nevertheless, the Hmong has managed to preserve their customs in general and the tribal costumes along with the unique patterns in specific. A lot of the Hmong’s patterns remain their symbolic decorations and identification signs until today.